The National Academies

TCRP A-46 [Final]

Quantitative Procedures for Designing and Operating Ferry Transit Services

  Project Data
Funds: $100,000
Research Agency: KPFF
Principal Investigator: Kristen Kissinger
Effective Date: 12/29/2020
Completion Date: 3/28/2022



Ferry transportation services play an important role in many municipal and regional transportation systems throughout the United States and have the potential to play an even greater role.  Ferries serve urban centers, island regions, and rural areas that do not have bridges. They provide transportation for commute trips, recreation, tourism, and freight. Ferries have provided critical transportation in the United States during emergencies including natural disasters, bridge failures, transit strikes, tunnel flooding, and the 9/11 World Trade Center bombing.


The 2018 Bureau of Transportation Statistics National Census of Ferry Operators (NCFO) reported service in calendar year 2017 to 126.2 million passengers and 27.0 million vehicles. The ferry census was completed by 181 of the 224 known ferry operators in 38 states and several U.S. possessions. They reported 967 route segments and a combined total of almost 22,000 annual nautical miles. 


Research that pursues data and improves the TCQSM’s framework and procedures for ferries is needed to better serve existing ferry operators as well as communities considering ferries as a potential transit mode.




The objective of this research is to present key quantitative procedures for designing and operating scheduled and fixed-route ferry transit services and facilities that serve passengers-only and passengers and vehicles. The procedures should focus on ferry capacity concepts and analysis methods including but not limited to vessels, docks, routes, terminals, and intermodal connections. The procedures must consider in-water, navigation, and regulatory factors in addition to environmental impacts of ferry services. Development of the procedures should strive to provide comparable detail to the bus, rail, and station chapters of the TCQSM.  

 The research was completed fall 2022.  The final report  for TCRP Report 238 has been released and is available here  .

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